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12 DECEMBER 2008

Received by email:

Below are two accounts of the cancellation of the planned Jewish National Front march into the Palestinian town of Umm el Fahm in northern Israel. It is not clear whether the Israeli and Arab peace activists wanted the racist march to go ahead to allow the deomonstration of Arab-Israeli solidarity against racism or whether they consider the cancellation to be a victory.

Both articles are clear that the Israeli peace movement condemned the racist reason given by the police for the cancellation - the fear of violence from the Arab citizens of Umm el Fahm.

_______________________________________________________________ Saturday 13/12/08 Gush Shalom Report

Police prevents Kahanists' Umm el Fahm provocation in the face of Arab-Jewish human chain

The cancellation of the racist provocation in Umm el Fahm is a victory for common sense and for solidarity between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

The municipality of Umm el Fahm and the leaders of the Arab public in Israel deserve praise for their response to the planned Kahanist "procession" : the immediate issuing of a public call upon Jewish Israelis to arrive en masse in Umm el Fahm, as welcome guests, and face the racists shoulder to shoulder with the townspeople. The police assertion that there had been a danger of violence and even of bloodshed is wrong. Had the Kahanists arrived at the entrance to Umm el Fahm, they would have found there a human chain formed by thousands of Arabs and Jews holding hands and barring their way, with no need of violence of any kind - and the same is what will happen if a new date is set for this provocation.

In order to block the entry of the Kahanists into Umm el Fahm, the police needed no further justification than the fact that these are members of a violent racist movement which was formally outlawed already 14 years ago, following the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron. The time is long overdue to actually implement that ban. But even if the police felt the need to resort to false pretexts, it is good that the racist provocation was prevented. Hopefully, this is the end of a shameful affair.

Original message - no more valid:

The Kahanists received permission to hold a provocative march in Umm el Fahm, on Monday, Dec. 15, at 11.00 am. At each of Umm el Fahm' four entrances will be a human chain of Jews and Arabs standing together to block their way.

Different groups are organizing transportation. It is less important with whom you will travel, the main thing is to be there, etc.

16 DECEMBER 2008

Received by email:

VIEWPOINT/ Boycott of settlements' industries is taking its toll

By Adam Keller
West Bank

Production lines in industrial zones in the West Bank have begun to deteriorate of late. The Barkan Winery has turned its back on the settlement after which it is named, and has moved to Kibbutz Hulda, within the Green Line, the pre-1967 border. Mul-T-Lock, which commands a near monopoly in the Israeli lock market, announced that it will also be leaving the Barkan industrial zone. In addition, Soda Club has promised its Swedish partner Empire that it will not export products produced in its plant in Mishor Adumim.

These days, factories located in settlements are becoming more risky and less profitable. This wasn't always the case. Four years ago, Eti Alush, the man behind the Barkan industrial center, presented a rather rosy picture: "There is no ideology in economics. Entrepreneurs come here for the money, not for political reasons. Barkan is accessible and relatively cheap, and businesses pay discounted city tax (arnona). It's an area under development, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry offers substantive assistance under the law for encouragement of capital investments, and Palestinian labor costs are low as well."

Export to Europe didn't seem like a problem for settlers back then, and Alush described the deception quite openly. "Companies that operate in the area have a number of factories, some of which are located within the 'Green Line,' aside from the one in Barkan. They label exports to Europe as coming from Kiryat Gat or Petah Tikva, not Barkan - because of the European boycott, and also because of settlement boycotts by various groups, like Gush Shalom."

A factory isn't some toy that can be hidden under the carpet. It's not difficult to enter, conduct surveillance and take pictures of trucks leaving the factory gates on their way to the port. European Union members don't like to be duped, and Britain has recently upped its supervision and checking procedures on products "Made in Israel," to ascertain where exactly they are coming from. A group of European citizens has begun investigating the businesses more thoroughly. Dutch beer giant Heineken, which was set to buy the Barkan wineries, faced a serious danger of a widespread consumer boycott on the streets of Amsterdam, and scrambled to make sure that its Israeli subsidiary left the area.

As for Mul-T-Lock, the firm boasts of being "part of the Swedish company Assa Abloy, the world leader in development and production of physical and electronic locking solutions," since 2000. Certainly a productive business alliance, one that opens many doors all over the world, but doesn't jive with production in the settlements. After Swedish religious and human rights organizations published an in-depth study of Sweden's involvement in Mul-T-Lock, Assa Abloy hurried to apologize to the Swedish public and promised that the error would be corrected, and that Mul-T-Lock would leave Barkan.

The writing is on the wall. Anyone who wants to be part of the international community, and build global, long-term businesses, had better stay away from the settlements.

The writer is the spokesman for Gush Shalom and a member of the movement's emergency settlements team.

20 DECEMBER 2008

Received by email a few days ago:

Arab town blamed for Jewish Pride march's cancellation; Peace groups angry at police slur
By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

Jewish peace groups have accused the Israeli police of fuelling racism by cancelling a 'Jewish Pride' march by a far-right group that was to have taken place through one of the largest Arab towns in Israel.

The police postponed the march, due last Monday, claiming they had evidence extremist residents of Umm al Fahm in northern Israel would open fire on the marchers and police.

'There was a real danger that lives could be lost,' said a police spokesman, adding that the decision to ban the march would be reassessed in two weeks.

But local Arab leaders and Jewish peace activists claimed the police concocted the story to justify the cancellation of the march. Thousands of Jews had planned to form a human chain with the residents of Umm al Fahm at the entrance to the town to block the way of the Jewish National Front.

Adam Keller, of the peace group Gush Shalom, said the planned show of solidarity would have been non-violent. He denounced the police for exploiting the stereotype of violent Arab citizens promoted by the marchers, many of whom are hardline settlers in the West Bank.

'It is a supreme irony that we had organised for thousands of Arabs and Jews to prove we can live here as citizens in harmony,' he said. 'Then the police cancel the march but use the false pretext that the marchers are in danger rather than that they seek to inflame violence.'

Claims by the police that Arab residents would shoot at the marchers were derided by Jewish and Arab organisations.

Jafar Farah, of the Mossawa parliamentary lobbying group, pointed out that the northern police force had used a similar excuse ' that Arab demonstrators were armed ' in Oct 2000, at the start of the intifada, to justify its use of live ammunition against protests in Arab communities.

A later state inquiry examining the deaths of 13 Arab demonstrators at the hands of the police found that they were unarmed. The inquiry concluded that the institutional view of the police was that Israel's 1.2 million-strong Arab population should be treated as 'an enemy' rather than as citizens.

'The lessons from that inquiry have still not been learnt,' Mr Farah said. 'There is still a culture of hatred in the police force as well as a culture of incitement. In their different way, the police want to de-legitimise the country?s Arab minority just as much as the marchers.'

The Jewish National Front is widely seen as a reinvention of the Kach movement, a Jewish terror organisation demanding the expulsion of Palestinians from both Israel and the West Bank. The movement was outlawed in the 1990s.

Kach tried to stage a march to Umm al Fahm in 1984 but was repulsed when Jews and Arabs turned out on a large scale.

The police opposed the new march from the outset, saying it believed that confrontations between the marchers and local residents might provoke riots across the north, especially in the wake of violence between Jews and Arabs in Acre in October.

The Supreme Court overruled the police, agreeing with the Front that their right to free expression was being curtailed.

Mr Keller said he believed the police had opposed the march because of the exorbitant cost of bringing thousands of police officers to the town.

'They needed an excuse to prevent the march but one that would be acceptable to the Jewish public and which would not look like they were ignoring the court's ruling. They resorted to the easiest - and most dangerous - pretext available: that Umm al Fahm is a hotbed of terror.'

Itamar Ben Gvir, a Front leader and settler involved in the recent clashes with the Israeli army over the evacuation of a settler-occupied Palestinian house in Hebron, called the police decision 'a disgrace to the rule of law'. He added: 'Today the police have proved once and for all that they do not control Umm al Fahm.'

Shuli Dichter, the head of the Sikkuy coexistence group and a resident of a kibbutz near Umm al Fahm, called that suggestion 'nonsense'.

'At the weekend we organised tours for hundreds of Jews to Umm al Fahm. They shopped and visited attractions without any trouble whatsoever. We proved that Jews are welcome in Umm al Fahm and that the violence comes only from the far-right.'

Raja Aghbariyya, the head of Islamic Youth Movement in Umm al Fahm, expressed a view widely shared in the town: 'We welcome anyone who comes to visit the city, but not according to the relationship of slave and master.'

Mr Dichter said the police decision had disappointed him. 'I would have preferred to see this march stopped by the opposition of an aware public rather than by the police.'

He said the large turnout of Jewish groups had been possible because of a framework of co-operation between Jews and Arabs created in the wake of the 13 deaths in Oct 2000.

That included a forum jointly headed by the Arab mayor of Umm al Fahm, Sheikh Hashem Abd al Rahman, and the Jewish mayor of the Menashe Regional Council, Ilan Sadeh. Mr Sadeh, who had assisted in plans to oppose the Front, described the march as an attempt 'to sow chaos in the area'.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are 'Disappearing Palestine: Israel`s Experiments in Human Despair' (Zed Books). His website is


22 DECEMBER 2008

Bernard Madoff: Wall Street Swindler Strikes Powerful Blows for Social Justice

By James Petras

“We never thought he would do this to us, he was one of our people”, member of Palm Beach Country Club.

December 22, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse" --- Wall Street broker Bernard (‘Bernie’) Madoff, former president of NASDAQ, revered and respected investor confessed to pulling off the biggest fraud in history, a $50 billion dollar scam. Bernie was known for his generous philanthropy, especially to Zionist, Jewish and Israeli causes. A one time life-guard on Long Island in the 1960’s, Bernie launched his financial career by raising money from colleagues, friends and relatives among wealthier Jews in the Long Island suburbs, Palm Beach, Florida and in Manhattan, promising a modest, steady and secure return of between 10 to 12%, covering any withdrawals in typical Ponzi fashion by drawing on funds from new investors who literally pleaded for Bernie to fleece them. Madoff personally managed at least $17 billion dollars. For almost four decades he built up a clientele, which came to include some of the biggest banks and investment houses in Scotland, Spain, England and France; as well as major hedge funds in the United States. Madoff drew almost all of the funds from high net-worth private clients who were recruited by brokers working on commission. Bernie’s clients included many multi-millionaires and billionaires from Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere, as well as the US’s largest hedge funds (RMF Division of the Man Group and the Tremont). Many of the swindled super-rich clients forced their money on Madoff, who sternly imposed rigorous conditions on potential clients: He insisted they have recommendations from existing investors, deposit a substantial amount and guarantee their own solvency. Most considered themselves lucky to have their funds taken by the highly respected Wall Street…swindler. Madoff’s standard message was that the fund was closed…but because they came from the same world (board members of Jewish charities, pro-Israel fund raising organizations or the ‘right’ country clubs) or were related to a friend, colleague or existing clients, he would take their money.

Madoff set up advisory councils with distinguished members, contributed heavily to museums, hospitals and upscale cultural organizations. He was a prominent member of exclusive country clubs in Palm Beach and Long Island. His reputation was enhanced by his funds record of never having a losing year – a big selling point in luring millionaire investors. Madoff shared with his super-rich clients (Jews and Gentiles) a common upper class life style, and mix of cultural philanthropy with low key financial profiteering. Madoff ‘played’ his colleagues with a soft-spoken, but authoritative, appearance of ‘expertise’, covered by a veneer of upper class collegiality, deep commitment to Zionism and long-term friendships.

Bernie’s mega-fund shared many signs with recent high level scams: The constant high returns, unmatched by any other broker; a lack of third party oversight; a backroom accounting firm physically incapable of auditing the multi-billion dollar operation; a broker-dealer operation directly under his thumb and the total obfuscation of what he was actually investing in. The obvious similarity of signs with other fraudsters were overlooked by the rich and famous, the sophisticated investors and high paid consultants, the Harvard MBA’s and the entire army of regulators from the Security and Exchange Commissions (SEC) because they were totally embedded in the corrupt culture of ‘take the money and run’ and ‘if you’re making it, don’t ask questions’. The reputation of the superior wisdom of a seemingly successful Jewish Wall Streeter fed into the self-delusions of the wealthy and the stereotypes held by millionaire Gentiles.

The Big Swindle

Madoff’s investment fund only dealt with a limited clientele of multi-millionaire and billionaires who kept their funds in for the long haul; the occasional withdrawal were limited in amount and were easily covered by soliciting new funds from new investors fighting to have access to Madoff’s money management. The long-term big investors looked toward passing their investments to their kin or eventual retirement. The wealthy lawyers, dentists, surgeons, distinguished Ivy league professors and others who might need to draw from their funds for an occasional fancy wedding or celebrity-studded bar-mitzvah, could draw from their funds because Madoff had no problem covering the withdrawal by attracting funds from rich owners of sweat shop garment factories, dangerous meat packing outfits and slumlords.

Madoff was no Robin Hood, his philanthropic and charity contributions facilitated access to the rich and wealthy who served on the boards of the recipient institutions and proved that he was ‘one of them’ a kind of super-rich ‘intimate’ of the same elite class. The shock, awe and heart attacks that followed Madoff’s confession that he was ‘running a Ponzi scheme’ drew as much anger for the money lost and the fall from the moneyed class as for the embarrassment of knowing that the world’s biggest exploiters and smartest swindlers on Wall Street, were completely ‘taken’ by one of their own. Not only did they suffer big losses but their self-image of themselves as rich because they are so smart and of ‘superior stock’ was utterly shattered: They saw themselves as suffering the same fate as all the schmucks they had previously swindled, exploited and dispossessed in their climb to the top. There is nothing worse for the ego of a respectable swindler than to be trumped by a bigger swindler. As a result, a number of the biggest losers have so far refused to give their names or the amount they lost, working instead through lawyers fighting off other losers.

The Positive Side of Madoff’s Mega-Swindle (The Inadvertent Hand of Justice)

While it is understandable that the super-rich and wealthy, who have lost a large portion of their retirement and investment funds are unanimous in their condemnation and cries of betrayal of trust, and the editorials of all the prestigious newspapers and weeklies have joined the chorus of moral critics, there is much to praise in Madoff’s deeds, even if such praise was not at the heart of his fraudulent endeavor.

It is worthwhile to list the inadvertent positive outcomes of Madoff’s mega-swindle. First of all the swindle of $50 plus billion dollars may make a big dent on US Zionist funding of illegal Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories, lessen funding for AIPAC’s purchase of Congressional influence and financing of propaganda campaigns in favor of a pre-emptive US military attack against Iran. Most investors will have to lower or eliminate their purchase of Israel bonds, which subsidize the Jewish State’s military budget.

Secondly, the swindle has further discredited the highly speculative hedge funds already reeling from massive withdrawals because of deep losses. Madoff’s funds were one of the last ‘respected’ operations still drawing new investors, but with the latest revelations it may accelerate their demise. The dismissed promoters may finally have to perform an honest, productive day’s work.

Thirdly, Madoff’s long-term, large-scale fraud was not detected by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) despite its claims of at least two investigations. As a result, there is a total loss of credibility. More generally, the SEC’s failure demonstrates the incapacity of capitalist government regulatory agencies to detect mega frauds. This failure raises the question of whether alternatives to investing in Wall Street are better suited to protect savings and pension funds.

Fourthly, Madoff’s long-term association with NASDAQ, including his chairmanship, while he was defrauding his clients of billions, strongly suggests that the members and leaders of this stock exchange are incapable of recognizing a crook, and are prone to overlook felonious behavior of ‘one of their own’. In other words, the investing public can no longer look to holders of high posts in NASDAQ as a sign of probity. After Madoff it may signal time to look for a king-size mattress for safe keeping of what remains of a family’s wealth.

The fifth point is that the investment advisors from top banks in Europe, Asia and the US managing billions of funds did not carry out the most elementary due diligence of Madoff’s operation. Apart from severe bank losses, tens of thousands of influential, affluent and super-rich lost their entire accumulated wealth. The result is total loss of confidence in the leading banks and financial instruments as well as the general discrediting of ‘expert knowledge’. The result is a weakening of the financial stranglehold over investor behavior and the demise of an important sector of the parasitic ‘rentier’ class, which gains without producing any useful commodities or providing needed services.

The sixth point is that since most of the money stolen by Madoff came from the upper classes around the world, his behavior has reduced inequalities – he is the ‘greatest leveler’ since the introduction of the progressive income tax. By ruining billionaires and bankrupting millionaires, Madoff has lessened their capacity to use their wealth to influence politicians in their favor – thus increasing the potential political influence of the less affluent sectors of class society…and inadvertently strengthening democracy against the financial oligarchs.

A seventh point can be made that by swindling life-long friends, self-same ethno-religious investors, narrow ethnically defined country club members and close family members, Madoff demonstrates that finance capital shows no respect for any of the pieties of everyday life: Great and small, holy and profane, all are subordinated to the rule of capital.

Eighth, among the many ruined investors in New York and New England, there are a number of mega slumlords (real estate moguls), sweatshop owners (fancy name-brand clothes and toy manufacturers) and others who barely paid the minimum wage to their women and immigrant laborers, evicted poor tenants and swindled employees out of their pensions before moving their operations to China. In other words, Madoff’s swindle was a kind of secular ‘divine’ retribution for past and present crimes against labor and the poor. Needless to say, this ‘unconscious Robin Hood’ did not redistribute the money fleeced from the employers to their workers, he reinvested part of it in charities which enhanced his philanthropic image and to payout to some of his early investors so sustain the overall Ponzi scam.

Point number nine is that Madoff struck a severe blow against anti-Semites who claim that there is a ‘close-knit Jewish conspiracy to defraud the Gentiles’, laying that canard to rest once and for all. Among Bernard Madoff’s principle victims were his closest Jewish friends and colleagues, people who shared Seder meals and frequented the same upscale temples in Long Island and Palm Beach.

Bernie was discriminating in accepting clients, but it was on the basis of their wealth and not their national origin, race, religion or sexual preference. He was very ecumenical and a strong backer of globalization. There was nothing ethnocentric about Madoff: He defrauded the Anglo-Chinese bank HSBC of $1 billion dollars and several billions from the Dutch arm of the Belgian bank Fortes. $1.4 billion was from the Royal Bank of Scotland, the French bank BNP Paribas, the Spanish bank, Banco Santander, the Japanese Nomura; not to mention hedge funds in London and the US, which have admitted holdings in Bernard Madoff Investment Securities. Indeed Bernie was emblematic of the modern up-to-date, politically correct, multicultural, international…swindler. The ease with which the super rich of Europe forked their fortunes over caused one Madrid-based business consultant to observe that, “picking off Spain’s wealthiest was like clubbing seals…” (Financial Times, December 18, 2008 p.16)

The tenth point is that Madoff’s swindle will likely promote greater self-criticism and a more distrustful attitude toward other potential confidence people posing as reliable financial know-it-alls. Among self-critical Jews, they are less likely to confide in brokers simply because they are zealous backers of Israel and generous contributors to Zionist fund drives. That is no longer an adequate guarantee of ethical behavior and a certificate of good conduct. In fact it may raise suspicion of brokers who are excessively ardent boosters of Israel and promise consistent high returns to local Zionist affiliates – asking themselves whether this business about ‘what is good for the …’ is really a cover for another scam.

The final and 11th point is the demise of Madoff’s enterprise and his wealthy liberal Jewish victims will adversely affect contributions to the 52 Major Jewish American Organizations, numerous foundations in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere, as well as the Clinton/Schumer militarist wing of the Democratic Party (Madoff bankrolled both of them as well as other unconditional Congressional supporters of Israel). This may open Congress to greater debate on Middle East policy without the usual high volume attacks.


Madoff’s swindle and fraudulent behavior is not the result of a personal moral failure. It is the product of a systemic imperative and the economic culture, which informs the highest circles of our class structure. The paper economy, hedge funds and all the ‘sophisticated financial instruments’ are all ‘Ponzi schemes’ – they are not based on producing and selling goods and services. They are financial bets on future financial paper growth based on securing future buyers to pay off earlier cash ins.

The ‘failure’ of the SEC is totally predictable and systemic: The regulators are selected from the regulatees, are beholden to them and defer to their judgments, claims and audit sheets. They are structured to ‘miss the signs’ and to avoid ‘over-regulating’ their financial superiors. Madoff operated in a milieu of a Wall Street where everything goes, where impunity for mega-bailouts for mega swindlers is the norm. As an individual swindler, he out-defrauded some of his bigger institutional competitors on the Street. The whole system of rewards and prestige goes to those best able to juggle the books, to cover the paper trails and who have willing victims begging to get fleeced. What a mensch, this Madoff!

In a few days, one individual, Bernard Madoff, has struck a bigger blow against global financial capital, Wall Street and the US Zionist Lobby/Israel-First Agenda than the entire US and European left combined over the past half century! He has been more successful in reducing vast wealth disparities in New York than all the white, black, Christian and Jewish, reform and mainline Democratic and Republican governors and Mayors over the past two centuries.

Some right-wing conspiracy theorists are claiming that Bernie is a secret Islamic-Palestinian agent (from Hamas) who set out to deliberately undermine the financial base of the Jewish State of Israel and its most powerful, affluent and generous US backers and foundations. Others claim that he is a closet Marxist whose swindles were carefully designed to discredit Wall Street and to funnel billions into clandestine radical organizations – after all… does anyone know where the lost billions have gone? Unlike the leftist pundits, bloggers and protest marchers, whose earnest and public activities have had no effect on the rich and powerful, Madoff has aimed his blows where it hurts the most: Their mega-bank accounts, their confidence in the capitalist system, their self-esteem and, yes, even their cardiac well-being.

Does that mean we on the left should form a Bernie Madoff Defense Committee and call for a bailout in line with Paulson’s bailout of his Citibank cronies? Should we proclaim “Equal bailout for equal swindlers!”? Should we advocate his flight (or his right of return) to Israel to avoid a trial? It might not fly with his many Jewish victims to make the case for an Israeli retirement for Bernie.

There is no reason to mount the barricades for Bernard Madoff. It’s enough to recognize that he has inadvertently rendered an historic service to popular justice by undermining some of the financial props of a class-ridden injustice system.


Was it out of sheer admiration or because of some covert linkages with Madoff that our current Attorney General Michael Mukasey is removing himself from the investigation? Others of equal importance and influence are most certainly tied in the Madoff Affair, and not just the ‘victims’. We are facing a serious case of matters of State … No one can believe that a single person could by himself pull off a scam of this size and duration. Nor can any serious investigator believe that $50 billion dollars has simply ‘disappeared’ or been squirreled into personal accounts.

31 DECEMBER 2008

Antony Loewenstein forwarded this article from the ABC's online programme "UNLEASHED". It was in response to an earlier article by Vic Alhadeff

(The ABC programme) Unleashed presents diverse and robust opinion about politics, society, belief and behaviour.

Israel no victim

Peter Slezak and Antony Loewenstein

Vic Alhadeff is a senior Zionist organisation official. His Unleashed article provides an opportunity for analysis that is instructive about our media and intellectual culture. The very persuasiveness of Alhadeff's case for Israel is the reason it deserves attention. It misrepresents the uncontroversial facts and the moral issues at stake.

Alhadeff rehearses official lies of the Israeli government that are, moreover, uncritically repeated by our politicians and "free press".

Alhadeff portrays Israel as a victim of implacable, irrational foes who are bent on gratuitously "killing, maiming and terrorising as many civilians as possible". At a time when Israel is committing unprecedented violence, such reversal of the facts requires contempt for an audience who is expected not to know better. Israel's actions are comparable to their killing of stone-throwing children with rifles and tanks.

Israeli victim-hood is the premise on which the public relations machine relies to warrant their military actions. On this picture, a well-meaning, peace-loving Israel offers generous treaties and truces that are rejected by fanatical, fundamentalist terrorists in favour of murdering Jews. The story line is that, finally, Israel had no choice but to invade the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas.

This story can only convince an audience that does not know the facts and these are either falsified or left out altogether by Alhadeff.

First, the central factual claim on which the entire campaign rests concerns the relentless rocket fire against Israeli citizens that finally became intolerable and the justification for large-scale air-force strikes. As Israel's own newspaper Haaretz reminds us: "Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it when it blew up a tunnel, while still asking Egypt to get the Islamic group to hold its fire."

Haaretz reports Israeli ministry of defence sources who reveal that plans for the operation were made over six months ago, at the same time as Israel was beginning to negotiate the truce agreement with Hamas. Nevertheless, the media and politicians have consistently reported the official Israeli lies, re-writing history effectively as it happens.

However, even if the Palestinian violation of the cease-fire were true, it would not justify the current intense military assault on Gaza which is the most destructive since 1967. Israel has declared Gaza to be a "special military zone", a classification that is one degree below a declaration of total war against an enemy state.

While the rocket fire is illegal under international law, it does not give Israel the right to respond against the population of Gaza since collective punishment is unequivocally prohibited by the Geneva conventions. This comes after the collective punishment of Israel's devastating blockade for which it was condemned by the UN and human rights groups around the world. The blockade had already created a severe humanitarian crisis with shortages of bread, fuel, ink, paper, electricity, medications and hospital equipment among other elementary necessities of life.

A separate violation by Israel concerns the targeting of civilians. Since Hamas is a legitimate, democratically elected political party that controls the government, security-related institutions are civilian targets including police departments and uniformed officers. Other targets are incontestably civilian such as factories, mosques, a television broadcasting centre, university and other sites that have been demolished with loss of innocent life.

The excuse that Hamas is to blame for placing military sites among the population would not justify killing civilians even if it were true.

Another clear violation of international law is the grossly disproportionate scale of the military attack. Alhadeff's rehearsing of official Israeli excuses for a massive military over-reaction to the supposed provocation is an attempt to excuse the inexcusable.

The rocket fire has claimed altogether a handful of Israeli lives despite Israel's unprecedented military assault - clear evidence of how little threat Hamas rockets pose for Israel. To put Israel's aggression into perspective, we must juxtapose the claims of urgency and "no choice" with the entire history of harm caused by home-made rockets: altogether around 20 fatalities in the past two years.

Alhadeff is certainly correct in noting that Hamas is listed as a "terrorist" organisation - but this just reflects the Orwellian terminology used by Western commentators to exclude Western crimes by definition, regardless of their scale. By any meaningful definition, Israel is responsible for large-scale terrorism, if the facts make any difference.

In 1982 during the first Lebanon war, Israel killed around 17,000 civilians - by far the largest act of terrorism in the Middle East, but conveniently forgotten by Alhadeff and media commentators. The 2006 Lebanon war cost around 1,000 lives and involved cluster bombs against civilians and other forms of terrorism including gross violations of international law.

Another revealing omission from Alhadeff's version of history is the 40-year military occupation and its toll on Palestinian lives. However, perhaps most glaring is Alhadeff's failure to even hint at the crushing blockade of Gaza. Contrary to the picture retailed by Alhadeff, Hamas showed remarkable restraint under the most desperate conditions and extreme provocation.

The exaggeration of the danger posed by home-made missiles leaves no doubt that the Israeli attack on Gaza was driven by political and not security motives. The posturing before forthcoming Israeli elections is widely cited as motivation for this military adventure.

The mainstream understanding of what goes on in the world is often the reverse of the truth. In light of the facts, it is regrettable that the Australian government has uncritically echoed Israeli-American talking points.

Contrary to standard perceptions, since its election in 2006 Hamas has consistently offered negotiation with Israel and expressed a willingness to accept a two-state solution based on 1967 borders. As Harvard Middle East expert, Sara Roy, has pointed out, Israel pretends that they have no partner for peace precisely because they know that the reality is quite the opposite.

Even the Australian Jewish News (AJN) recently expressed the need for friends of Israel to be critical of the Jewish state. This view was widely shared by around 500 signatories of a statement published by Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) () in 2007 who urged a wider and more honest debate over Israel and Palestine.

Alhadeff's article has interest as an example of apologetics in the service of power and state crimes. He does not contribute to the well-being and security of Israelis or Palestinians.

Israeli peace group Gush Shalom published a statement in Haaretz on December 30 calling for an immediate cease-fire, arguing that the war is "inhuman, superfluous" and that "nothing good for Israel will come out of it". They further point out that the attack will deepen hatred for Israel, "arouse the whole civilized world against us" and "undermine even more the status of peace-seeking Palestinians".

1 JANUARY 2009

This article, from The Age newspaper of 1 January 2009, asks why the federal government is such a toady to the Israel lobby. A necessary question indeed, in light of the Israeli butchery in Gaza taking place on an ongoing daily basis!

Deadly consequences of the games Israel plays

Michael Shaik
• December 31, 2008

"Hamas has broken the ceasefire and engaged in an act of aggression against Israel. Israel has responded."— Julia Gillard

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard's statement to the media has an undeniable logic, which was elaborated by Fania Oz-Salzberger on this page in yesterday's Age.

The firing of rockets into Israel, Oz-Salzberger argues, is an unprovoked act of aggression that requires a response. While Israelis may regret the dreadful necessity of the unfolding slaughter in Gaza, they are, in fact, the victims of a cynical Hamas ploy that deliberately "pitches infantry among infants and babies among barricades".

In the 18th century, Voltaire noted that "those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities". To understand Israel's offensive, therefore, one must examine how the foregoing narrative fits with reality.

The Gaza Strip is the most crowded area in the world today, with 1.5 million Palestinians — most of whom are refugees banned from returning to their homes in Israel — eking out an existence in a walled-in holding pen on the edge of the Mediterranean. In 2000, the World Health Organisation reported that Gaza's water supply, which is being depleted by Israel's diversion of its artesian waters, was no longer fit for human consumption.

In 2005 Israel "disengaged" from the Gaza Strip by withdrawing 8000 of its settlers. According to the architect of the disengagement, Ariel Sharon, its purpose was to consolidate Israel's settlements in the West Bank.

When Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israeli officials declared their intention to punish the Palestinians by putting them on a "diet". The diet was intensified in 2007, following the seizure of power in Gaza by Hamas. Imports and exports were suspended and the supply of food, medicine, electricity and fuel has been alternately reduced to a trickle or cut off altogether.

The result, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency, is that Gaza has become "the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and — some would say — encouragement of the international community". Israel's premise in imposing its diet on the people of Gaza was that they would turn against Hamas when they realised how much worse off they were than their compatriots in the West Bank. Over the past year, this assumption has been utterly discredited.

Since the Annapolis peace summit of November 2007, Israeli settlement construction has accelerated markedly throughout the West Bank and exponentially in Palestinian East Jerusalem. While Fatah's "security forces" have co-operated with Israel in liquidating Palestinian resistance cells, they have no control over the checkpoints that regulate Palestinian life in the West Bank and are powerless to protect their people from attacks by Israeli soldiers and settlers.

But in Gaza, where the Hamas party has refused to unilaterally renounce the armed struggle, Israel agreed to a ceasefire based on a rough balance of terror. Though hungry and cold, Gaza's people have until recently enjoyed a security that West Bank Palestinians can only dream about.

On November 4, the ceasefire was shattered by the Israeli Army when it crossed into Gaza to destroy a tunnel and kill six Palestinian militants, calculating (correctly) that the international media would be too focused on America's presidential election to properly cover the attack. Its motives for breaking the ceasefire and the recent escalation of its attacks on Gaza are probably due to a number of factors. The first is its wish to restore what Israelis euphemistically call its "deterrence credibility".

Israel's generals are known to have felt deeply humiliated by the ceasefire. By seeking a decisive victory over Hamas they hope to re-establish Israel's military prestige as the region's mini-superpower.

The second is attributable to domestic political factors. Decisive action against recalcitrant Arabs has always played well with the Israeli public. With an election looming and the opposition Likud party leading in the polls, the Israeli Government's demonstrated willingness to punish Hamas regardless of civilian casualties has, as Oz-Salzberger notes, turned the tables on Likud "in a uniquely Israeli way".

The final reason is probably the most obvious but needs to be emphasised: Israel is counting on its supporters around the world to "contextualise" the offensive.

While impossible to disprove, Oz-Salzberger's assertion that Israel's attempts to "surgically strike" military targets are being frustrated by Hamas' strategy of deliberately putting Palestinian children in harm's way is contradicted by a broad consensus of reports by human rights organisations, which have consistently reported instances of Palestinian civilians being killed by excessive lethal force, while failing to discover a single case of Palestinian militants using children as human shields.

Israel's decision to launch its surprise attack at 11.30 on Saturday morning when Palestinian children throughout Gaza would be leaving their morning classes or on their way to afternoon classes is also more consistent with its policy of punishing Gaza's civilian population than with a strategy of surgical strikes.

Julia Gillard's parroting of Israel's falsification of the historical record and blithe endorsement of Israel's horrendous attacks on the Gaza Strip raise some troubling questions regarding the Australian Government's policy orientation in the Middle East.

What possible national interests, one might wonder, are being served when the Australian Government so readily sacrifices our international reputation to curry favour with the Australian Israel lobby?

Michael Shaik is the public advocate for Australians for Palestine.

6 JANUARY 2009

The following letter is in The Age newspaper and I am one of the signatories:

Israel must end its brutal assault

WE ARE Australian Jews who condemn the military attacks on Gaza. Israel has the right to protect its citizens and demand an end to the crime of Palestinian rockets targeting civilians. However, this cannot be used as a pretext for the grossly disproportionate military assault on Gaza because it was Israel that violated the truce in November.

The home-made rockets have caused relatively few Israeli casualties. By contrast, Israel's bombardment has caused about 400 deaths and 2000 casualties. Civilian targets include a university, television station, factories, mosques, ministry offices, parliament and refugee camps.

The war comes after the Israeli blockade that created a humanitarian crisis under which the Palestinians suffered from lack of food, electricity, medicines and hospital equipment. The blockade was condemned by the UN and, like the Israeli airstrikes, constitutes illegal collective punishment prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

We call for an end to attacks on civilians by Palestinians and Israelis. However, since Palestinians have no means of self-defence against the Middle East's most powerful force, we particularly call on Israel to end its assault and reconsider its rejection of the UN Security Council's call for a ceasefire.

There can be no solution without Israel being a willing partner to dialogue.

Antony Loewenstein (author), Linda Jaivin (writer), Moss Cass (former Labor MP), Ian Cohen (NSW Greens MP), Andrew Riemer (writer and critic) and 108 others

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 1

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 2

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 3

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 4

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 5

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 6

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 7

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 8

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9a

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9b

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 10

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 12

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 13

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 14

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 15

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 16

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 17

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 18

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 19

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 20

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 21

Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 22



Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:

MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)

Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009

RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)

This page updated 17 APRIL 2014 and again on 26 OCTOBER 2016

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